A grand slam

OpenGrounds event brings poetry to life


Poets captivated their audience with their engaging and passionate performances at OpenGrounds.

Students piled into OpenGrounds Thursday for a Valentine’s-themed poetry slam sponsored by University Programs Council and the Collegiate Speech Team. Amid the smell of coffee and the ambiance created by a fireplace on a large TV screen, 14 poets read and performed original five-minute slam poetry pieces.

“The poet not only has to be a writer but an actor as well,” second-year College student and program coordinator Keelin Sweeney said. “So every slam poetry event has its own feel.”

Though members of UPC considered using an application process to screen performers, they ultimately opened up the reading to all poets who pledged the authenticity of their work.

“It was nice to see so many people come out to support the event, especially because many people think poetry is a dying art and few are interested in it anymore,” said first-year College student Kelly Zanotti. “It isn’t really true. People do come and see and listen to what other people are saying.”

The performances were judged by Assoc. Drama Prof. Kate Burke and voted on by the audience.

With an impassioned performance of his poem “Stethoscope Lovesongs,” second-year College student Karsten Coates swept the audience away and won first place. He composed the poem during a flight layover over the summer. Coates will recite the poem at TEDxUVA on Feb. 22.

Inspired by two women he knows, Coates’ work deals with how women struggle with beauty and the role men play in perpetuating what Coates deems unadvisable promiscuous behavior.

“You know she wants some connection to someone but this is the only connection that people are giving her,” Coates rapped. “And so when she accepts it we still blame her, and not the society that has supported the conquest of women or a society that says it’s acceptable to exchange lust for love or sex for love.”

Though all the poems were loosely related to the night’s theme of “love,” the performances touched on a wide array of moments including dangerous situations, awkward moments, hurtful relationships and everything in between.

“It’s an awesome platform for people to be able to talk about their problems, insecurities or anything they are dealing with and express them in a creative way rather than one that could be harmful to themselves or others,” Coates said.

The second place poem, written and performed by second-year College student Claire Constance, was a witty piece from the view of a hopeless romantic who does not believe in love at first sight. In third place, second-year Nursing student Erika Fernandez used color to illustrate the complicated journey of a love interest.

“I am always excited when I come to these events and students are being so creative,” third-year College student Billy Baker, president of the Collegiate Speech Team said. “[They] do so much better work than I could possibly do.”

Published February 2, 2014 in Life

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